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The heroic in man

The devaluation of his need for the mother becomes the male’s way of maintaining machoism, the touchstone of masculinity. The main message of masculine development is that there can be no weakness, and so the boy must focus intensively on power in one form or another. In his desperation to become fully autonomous and independent, he seeks to reinforce his sense of masculinity, and society offers any number of means to accomplish this. No matter what form this achievement takes, the basic principle at work is the expansion of the ego as the individual wields the kind of power which will inevitably go to his head.

The heroic in man is intent on achievements, glory, and domination, dissociating his real feelings by identifying with symbols of power and control (i.e. nation, money, leader, doctor, lawyer, Olympic Gold Medalist). Sports are a huge fraternity that teaches physical prowess, aggression, and the need to win and dominate at any cost (especially the contact team sports). Sports have achieved mythic proportion in our culture, forms of ritualized warfare Spartan style. Hung on the walls of many a men’s locker room is the saying, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”

In the corporate world power takes form in the pursuit of money, and forms of financial and political winning. Today, lots of money equals a large penis - and nothing to be ashamed of. To be poor, of course, means “to be without a penis.” This idea is creating a shameless corporate culture of mega profits at any price, real or false, where men choose power over the other, domination, risk and extravagance. This form of phallic omnipotence is shown in the sheer magnitude of the greed, deception, deceit and lying that was inherent in most of Wall Street’s “accounting irregularities” and fiscal sleight of hand. The self-destructive priority given to winning is exemplified by the men of Enron Energy Corporation’s upper management who called themselves the “Masters of the Universe” and filed the largest bankruptcy in the history of the U.S. They considered money the measure of a person’s very being. Their slogan was “you can break the rules, you can cheat, you can lie, but as long as you make money, it is all right” (Henning, 2006: 130). An employee’s ability to adhere to this principle separated the men from the boys. Human greed replaces human vulnerability to make mistakes when materialism and the accumulation of wealth for the attainment of power take the lead.

The idea of manhood lies in the will to dominate others. Patriarchal culture has forged powerful beliefs in physical force and the elite entitlement of men. Enduring pain is also a very big aspect of masculinity, but it is a particular kind of pain. It is an omnipotent pain, a conquering through the identification with the aggressor who caused the pain. A military slogan is “pain is weakness leaving the body,” and only real men are good at soldiering. In an article entitled “Why Men Love War,” William Broyles (1984) writes: “war is, for men, at some terrible level, the closest thing to what childbirth is for women: the initiation into the power of life and death.”

Manhood is a relentless repudiation of the feminine. One of the most important things about being a man is not being a woman. Being masculine means devaluing the feminine, a powerful male imperative to be unlike females and repudiate anything that smacks of maternal caretaking, a hardening process of repression that creates a succubus culture, and turns masculinity into a brittle achievement. Feminine types of needs will raise doubt as to whether or not one is a real man. Men are chided not to be women, not to be “sissies” or “pussies.” Being a sexually adequate male means not being loving.

 
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